Buck makes the play at ASU.
When the Oakland A's announced they had drafted Travis Buck, an Arizona State OF with a smooth, fluid swing, great bat speed and a reputation for hard work, A’s fans rejoiced. When the A's announced that they had come to terms with Buck, those same fans started their chants of “Billy Beane is God”. In Vancouver, the real excitement was about to begin, as Buck was about to debut with the Canadians.
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Buck was a hero to this flock before he even set foot on Canadian soil, arriving a day late (but definitely not a dollar short) after taking BP
in Oakland, and then crunching a homerun in his third at bat during a road series in Tri-City, Washington. In the days that followed, Buck was
an instant offensive and defensive force, racking up a .400+ average, making huge plays in the outfield, and using his lightning speed to beat several infield throws to first.
But who is the real Travis Buck? Is he a superstar in his own mind, or is he just a kid having fun playing baseball… though, admittedly, a very strong kid, who could smack a tee-ball into the next county.
Q: So I pushed away the admiring ladies and collared T-Buck after his home debut to ask him his impressions of pro baseball life.
Buck: So far, so good. It took a while to be able to play, with the contract negotiations and all, but once I got out here and started playing and realized we have something special going on with this team, it's a lot of fun to go out there right now. These are a great bunch of guys in Vancouver, so I'm really enjoying myself right now. I’m not really looking at it as pro-ball, it’s just baseball. I’ve always taken a fairly professional approach to my game, so the only difference now is I’m being paid to play.
Q: You took batting practice in Oakland for a day before they shipped you up here, that must have been a little bit of an eye-opener…
Buck: Oh yeah! I went last Friday, I went down and took BP, hung out at the big league club, got a feel for the guys and how they run their organization. It was a lot of fun, there's a whole bunch of young guys in the clubhouse, and they enjoy playing baseball. They know it's a game, you know? They can have fun with it, but when they step on the field, they know it's all about business.
Q: Did anyone from the big club take you under their wing?
Buck: Oh yeah, Mark Kotsay, Swish, being an outfielder I hung out with them a lot and they were great. They just told me to just “do what got you here and you'll be fine,” so that's what I'm doing. It was nice to get that chance to see what it’s like in the big leagues, and they were really welcoming.
Q: Were you always an outfielder?
Buck: No, actually, I came to Arizona State as an infielder, but we already had some infielders there so they converted me to outfield. This would be about my fourth year in the outfield now. I’ve still got some things to learn, I think, but I enjoy it. In the end, wherever I’m needed is where I’m happy to play.
Q: How's the transition to wooden bats?
Buck: It's not bad. You know, the last couple of years I've had some chances to hit with wood, so it's a pretty easy transition really. Only thing that I have to work on is seeing good pitching day in and day out,
you know, you're not going to have too many thumpers out here. But things are going well right now, I’m swinging well with the wood, and it's all good. I think it matters more for the pitchers than the hitters, to be honest. They can pitch at you hard and not be worried that the ball will go yard on a pop-fly.
Q: Oakland has a very specific approach to hitting - working deep into the count, waiting for your pitch, getting on base – has that been difficult to get used to?
Buck: Yeah, you know, it's a little tough at times, but if the first pitch is there, you put a good swing on it and it doesn't matter. But yeah, if you do work the count, and see a lot of pitches, then you end up walking guys home with the bases full, like we did tonight.
Q: On your pro debut, you hit a monster homerun. Talk me through it.
Buck: Ha! That was a lot of fun, I think it took me my third AB, the home crowd at Tri-City was on my back, giving me a hard time, and I think it was a 2-2 pitch and I just put a good swing on it, and it went. There was a nice silence from the crowd after that.
Q: Think you can do that in the hitter’s graveyard of Vancouver?
Buck: I tried today (laughs) but it didn't really go anywhere, so I might stick to the liners. If you wanna hit it out here, you've got to go down the lines. Up the middle requires a pretty big hit.
Q: Is that something you work on in batting practice up here, to keep
the ball down with low-level drives?
Buck: Oh, absolutely. You know, I like this ballpark, there’s plenty of room in the outfield. Line drives are definitely where it's at. If you hit it well, sure, it's going to go out, but I have to concentrate on hitting line drives and groundballs up the middle, and in this park, that sort of hitting will see you through.
Q: Did you know Oakland was coming for you in the draft?
Buck: I knew there was a possibility because they've scouted me hard the last few years, and a few of our other guys [at Arizona State] have been drafted by them in the past. They told me there was a good possibility that if I was there in the supplemental round they'd pick me, and fortunately enough they did.
Q: Is that what you wanted, to get picked by Oakland?
Buck: Oh sure, absolutely, I was very pleased. It's a quality organization, and a lot of guys would like to be here that got picked up by other teams. Just how they run this organization, you know you’re going to
get the best chance to improve and move up, and being a college player you know you can move up pretty quickly here because they’ve relied on
college players in the past.
Q: Doesn't hurt that they're looking for an outfielder with pop, either.
Buck: (smiles) Exactly. Absolutely.
Interviewer Notes: Chris Parry is a Canadian-based writer and journalist for Unreel Media, who covers the Northwest League for Oakland Clubhouse. He can be heard on CJSF 90.1FM Vancouver every Sunday morning from 11am-1pm… as long as the Canadians aren’t playing at home. He is also the author of a blog about the Vancouver Canadians called “Notes From the Nat”.